One thing is certain: Ehud Olmert is not Sharon. For better or worse. Sharon was a master of ambiguity, especially on election eve. When Sharon spoke of painful concessions, nobody knew what he meant. When Sharon spoke of a Palestinian state, everyone said, "It will never happen on his watch."
After Olmert's weekend interviews, nobody can say that Olmert or Kadima lack a platform or a plan. Everything is on the table, including the schedule - until 2010, he promised, this state will look different. Olmert has shown his cards. Now it's up to the voter. The March 28 elections have become the referendum on Olmert's plan.
There is no doubt that Olmert has taken a courageous move. Time will tell whether it was wise politically. The poll-addicted politicians are holding their breath for the weekend polls: How will the Likud voters who moved to Kadima react? How many of them will get cold feet and return home? On the other hand, will Labor or even Meretz voters move to Kadima?
Olmert outlined his next coalition: The Netanyahu-led Likud will not be able to be part of it. With such a plan, Olmert's natural partner is Labor. Together with the ultra-Orthodox and perhaps Lieberman's Yisrael Beiteinu and Meretz, Olmert has a stable coalition for four years and eight months. Until November 2010. Labor will join for the political plan. The ultra-Orthodox - in exchange for reinstating children's allowances.
If Kadima wins and Olmert forms the next government, nobody will be able to say he doesn't have authority to act; nobody will be able to demand a referendum before the big pullout and before moving tens of thousands of settlers from the hills to the settlement blocs and Israel.
Olmert's move struck down the hallucinatory visions of a Likud and Labor right-wing coalition to block Kadima's path. What could the Likud offer Amir Peretz after the elections? A bigger pullout than Olmert's? Even if Peretz is appointed prime minister, he would be paralyzed because the majority in such a coalition would be right-wing.
Centrist parties like Kadima usually blur their positions on election eve. Olmert broke this pattern, probably against the judgment of some the advisers he inherited from Sharon. One may learn from this that Olmert has finally broken free of Sharon.
Last week he quoted to journalists David Ben-Gurion's famous saying: "I don't always know what the nation wants, but I know what the nation needs." Last night, in the campaign broadcasts, it transpired that B-G has another heir. Labor compared Peretz to Ben Gurion. If both Olmert and Peretz are being portrayed as Ben-Gurion, Bibi will have to go for Churchill. Nothing less.
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